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Tuesday January 17, 2023  |  Luke Marinac

Better Outcomes, Lower Costs: How Innovative Partnerships Are Overcoming Rural Staffing Shortages

In more ways than one, Nashville is a healthcare city masquerading as a mecca for country music fans. Rural themes, woven together with a penchant sound, define the songs that put Broadway on the map; but beyond the honky-tonks, some of the biggest names in medicine work day in and day out at the epicenter of a growing national health crisis: rural hospital closures.

According to a recent Becker's Healthcare Review that identified 220 rural hospitals at risk of closure, Tennessee—home to MEDHOST HQ—is at the top of the list. Despite serving as the country's nerve center for health system innovation, our state is projected to have as many as 44% of its rural hospitals shut their doors.

Representing approximately 10% of the US healthcare infrastructure, these facilities provide needed care for rural communities and serve as a bulwark for hometown economies. The ripple effect of rural hospital closures can impact every aspect of the populations they support, many of which already contend with poorer health outcomes and lower incomes than urban areas.

Why are rural hospitals closing in the US?

According to the American Hospital Association, a lack of skilled workers, staff, and nurses is among the primary factors behind rural hospital closures. Without the ability to fill critical roles, these facilities often lack the expertise or resources to provide necessary healthcare services, negotiate contracts, process claims, and optimize operations, resulting in a constant struggle to maintain patient satisfaction and an adequate flow of revenue.

Why Traditional Outsourcing Has Struggled to Solve Staffing Shortages at Rural Hospitals

While outsourcing operations may seem like an obvious answer to staffing shortages, it presents a unique host of problems for the close-knit community at rural hospitals. Many staff and clinicians at these facilities have lived in the area their entire lives. Some were born down the hall from where they now work. The value they bring, and preserving their place within that care continuum, can become complicated when a third party becomes involved.

What's worse, most traditional outsourced revenue cycle management has proven to be a disappointment for hospital leaders. From higher claim denial rates to longer patient collection cycles, many third-party vendors promising improved financial performance have left their customers underwhelmed and in the lurch.

Fortunately, not all revenue cycle governance is created equal. As unique and innovative approaches to revenue cycle management emerge to contend with this ongoing crisis, rural providers have access to new avenues of financially beneficial collaboration.

How Innovative Partnerships Are Overcoming Rural Staffing Shortages

Rural providers don't need to choose between outsourcing and in-house staffing. Business partners should share in the risk and resources to ensure positive outcomes. A hybrid model, which combines outsourced expertise, and preserves in-house assets, is the key to solving rural staffing shortfalls while preserving the essential character of these providers.

Integrating people, processes, and tools in one or more areas of revenue cycle, IT, and cybersecurity, rather than replacing staff, helps protect and improve the investments of rural health providers. Through measured and managed alignment, communication, and transparency, the collaborative teams of hospitals and providers can reduce operating costs and improve short- and long-term financial outcomes.

About MEDTEAM Services

MEDTEAM Services are part of MEDHOST and provide a wide range of services designed to improve cash flow and alleviate the burden of maintaining subject matter experts (SMEs), systems, and technology.

We specialize in claims management, focusing on claims submission, account receivables (A/R) management, and insurance reimbursement. We also offer contract management services, which include payor reimbursement variance analysis and recovery, the processing of patient statements and letters, online bill payment services, and custom reporting.

To find out how MEDTEAM is helping rural hospitals and healthcare facilities overcome workforce shortages while preserving their community of care, email us at inquiries@medhost.com or call 1.800.383.6278.

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